Sunday, February 12, 2006

NSA Wiretaps Are Against Combatants and Traitors, Not "Citizens"

What seems to me to be missing from the debate on the legality of the NSA wiretaps of suspected terrorists is a very simple fact--we are at war right now. Because the Bush administration has asked Americans to keep going about their daily lives as if nothing is different, we tend to lose sight of that fact. Why is this important? Because the battles we are fighting in this war are often happening on US soil. When we are attacked militarily, on US soil, it is in the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense to respond, not the FBI and Department of Justice.

We have been drilled in the separation of powers and the rules of Posse Comitatus for so long, that we forgot what they really mean. Posse Comitatus was a response to the practice of most nations using their military forces to keep governments and kings in power. Specifically, after The Civil War, Congress wanted to ensure the US military could not be used in the same way, so they prevented to use of the military in local law enforcement actions on US soil. We are no longer talking about law enforcement actions; we are talking about military battles on US soil in a war of attrition. So, why do we expect the commander in chief to abide by laws developed for domestic law enforcement and routine intelligence gathering during peacetime? Because we do not yet understand what it will take to win the war on terror.

I have heard way too many people opposed to the wiretaps argue that US citizens are protected against his surveillance by law--that they have constitutional rights that make such surveillance illegal. I say that is true, but not applicable in the current situation. The citizenship of the people being surveilled is irrelevant. The Department of Defense, and the President as the Commander in Chief, have the right, and the duty, to gather as much intelligence as possible on our enemy combatants. Do Americans expect the President to get a FISA warrant to listen to communications happening in Afghanistan or Iraq? Of course not. What if one of the people communicating is a US citizen who happens to be in Afghanistan or Iraq? Does that change things? Of course not. If you have taken up arms against the United States, then you are an enemy combatant--period. If you also happen to be a US citizen, then you are a traitor AND an enemy combatant--it's that simple. You are subject to Department of Defense and National Security surveillance no matter where you happen to be placing or receiving your call.

Can you imagine how effective our war on terrorism would be in the expectation was that the President would have to get a FISA warrant, or a lawyer's permission, to listen to, or even kill, an enemy combatant just because they might hold a US passport? Ridiculous!

This issue is simple. If you take up arms against the United States and participate in actions with the aim of killing Americans or bringing down the United States, then you are an enemy combatant and we will do everything in our power to capture, or preferably kill, you no matter where you happen to be eating your meals at the time. There is no room for arguments in the war on terror whose only supporting rationalization is based on geography. If you are a US citizen, you have specific protections guaranteed in our constitution and Bill of Rights that make being an American such an honor--if you are a traitor, you have none.